204619 Legal ages for purchase and consumption of alcohol and heavy drinking among college students in Canada, Europe and the United States

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 3:42 PM

Adrienne E. Keller, PhD , National Social Norms Institute, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Laurie Frye, MEd , National Social Norms Institute, Unviersity of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Jennifer Bauerle, PhD , Student Health, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
James C. Turner, MD , Department of Student Health, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
The question of whether the legal age for purchase and consumption of alcohol in the U.S.A. should be lowered (or raised) has once again become an issue that has captured public attention. Specifically, the Amethyst Initiative, which focuses on support from college presidents for renewed discussion of the minimum legal age, has garnered much publicity, with passionate supporters and equally passionate detractors. In a secondary analysis of data from two published study, we examine the correlation between minimum legal age to purchase and/or consume alcohol and rates of heavy drinking among college students in 22 countries. Minimum legal ages were obtained from the International Center for Alcohol Policies. Drinking data is from two published studies, using identical definitions of heavy drinking and similar methodologies. In the study of 20 European countries and the USA, there is a positive correlation between prevalence of heavy drinking and both minimum legal purchase age (r = .34) and minimum legal drinking age (r = .19); in the study of Canada and the USA, there is a perfect positive correlation (r = 1.0). Examination of this evidence does not support the conclusion that a lower minimum legal age for purchase and/or consumption of alcoholic beverages is a protective factor for decreasing heavy drinking among college students.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the sources and methodology of the comparative data on legal drinking/purchase age and prevalence of heavy drinking 2. Explain the meaning of the correlation statistics 3. Discuss the limitations of the information 4. Evaluate the implications of this information in the context of current discussions of changing the legal age in the USA

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I performed the data analysis; I am Research Director of the National Social Norms Institute; I have a Ph.D. in Medical Sciences with a specialty in Behavioral Medicine; I have 25+ years experience in program evaluation.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.